Manchester United Injuries: The Red Devils' Toughest Opponent Yet

Pauly KwestelCorrespondent INovember 3, 2010

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14:  Wes Brown of Manchester United comforts his injured team mate Antonio Valencia during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between Manchester United and Rangers at Old Trafford on September 14, 2010 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Manchester United could add Darren Fletcher and Nani to their ever growing list of injured players this season. The two midfielders both had to be subbed off for injuries during United's Champions League clash with Bursaspor Tuesday night. 

Dealing with injuries is nothing new for Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson keeps a very large and strong squad for this specific reason. United routinely has more players making appearances in important matches than almost every other team in the English Premier League. 

Over the last few seasons, United has been hammered by injuries.

Rio Ferdinand is still not fully fit from a back problem that has kept him out of action for many games over the last two years. Club captain Gary Neville continues to battle injury problems almost every time he plays. And lets not forget Owen Hargreaves, who managed to play for only 20 seconds last year, and has yet to make an appearance this year as he deals with chronic knee problems. 

Whenever a player goes down, United usually has someone ready to step right in and fill the void. The injuries finally caught up to the Red Devils last season when they were without nine first-team defenders.

At one point, United was playing without Rafael, Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Fabio, John O' Shea, and Ritchie Da Laet. United would employ a back three of Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, and Patrice Evra for a few games. 

While it worked at first, it would eventually be the cause of the Red Devils dropping valuable points away to Aston Villa and Fulham. 

Dealing with injuries is nothing new for many of these players. Gary Neville, Wes Brown, John O' Shea, Rafael, Fabio, Anderson, Gabriel Obertan, Owen Hargreaves, Ryan Giggs, and Rio Ferdinand have all struggled to stay fit for full seasons lately. With the young players, their entire careers at Old Trafford have been marred by injury. 

Now it seems injuries have caught up to United again. 

Wayne Rooney has been battling an ankle problem all season, which has contributed to his poor form. This wasn't a problem as Dimitar Berbatov got off to a great start and when he cooled off, Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez picked it up for him. 

Antonio Valencia went down in United's first Champions League match, but that has just allowed United to keep Nani on the field every week. 

But United may now face a very tough task. Tuesday night they lost two of its most influential players, players they may not just be able to replace. 

In the 29th minute Tuesday night, Nani needed to be subbed off with a groin injury. He is expected to miss at least this Saturday's match against Wolves and possibly the big Manchester Derby next week. Nani has been the Red Devils most in-form player all season, as he has scored five goals this season and added six assists. 

The next big loss was when Darren Fletcher needed to come off in the 63rd minute. There is no doubt that Fletcher has been United's most influential midfielder this season. While his name once caused fans to curse Sir Alex Ferguson when they saw it in the lineup, he has now become an absolute first choice player for any big match. 

With Michael Carrick's inconsistent play, and Paul Scholes too old to play every match, Fletcher is called upon game after game. His willingness to do the dirty work, as well as his ability with the ball to make the right pass, make him invaluable to the Red Devils midfield. Taking Fletcher off the team changes the entire dynamic, and United has no one who can fill that void. 

United only took a traveling party of 20 with them to Bursa for its Champions League match. Rio Ferdinand will rejoin the team for the match against Wolves, but midfielders Darren Gibson and Anderson were left behind with viruses. Only time will tell if they will be ready for Saturday's match. 

The loss of Nani and Fletcher could prove to be too much for United. They are already missing Valencia and Giggs, which means they will have to rely on the inexperienced Gabriel Obertan and Bebe down the wings. With Fletcher it is not as easy, as United doesn't have anyone who can replace the grit that Fletcher brings to the team. 

What United really needs to do is hope that these injuries don't keep Fletcher and Nani sidelined for too long.